A Carbon Tax to Combat Climate Change and Support Low-Income Households

Author: Christopher Knittel


Summary 

Putting a price on carbon is fundamental to achieving U.S. climate goals for 2050. Many options for carbon price-setting exist, and in this policy brief we propose a tax-and-dividend approach that mitigates the challenging impacts that carbon policies have on poor and suburban/rural communities, particularly those in Middle America. Such a plan will be a net gain for low-income households, in contrast to other proposed climate change policies which will adversely affect the poor. Furthermore, it has been shown that even a modest carbon tax can have large benefits in terms of cost-effectiveness.


For that reason, we propose the following:

  • Introduce a carbon tax-and-dividend plan as part of any federal climate policy.

  • Use revenue to offset impacts on low-income households, taking into account enormous regional disparities.

  • If political dynamics favor regulatory standards, consider coupling such standards with a modest carbon tax whose revenue can be used to offset their regressive effects.



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About the Author

Christopher R. Knittel is the George P. Shultz Professor of Applied Economics at the Sloan School of Management, Director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research, and Co-Director of the MITEI Low-Carbon Energy Center for Electric Power Systems Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He joined the faculty at MIT in 2011, having taught previously at UC Davis and Boston University. Professor Knittel received his B.A. in economics and political science from the California State University, Stanislaus in 1994 (summa cum laude), an M.A. in economics from UC Davis in 1996, and a Ph.D. in economics from UC Berkeley in 1999. His research focuses on environmental economics, industrial organization, and applied econometrics.